Making Ireland an offshore wind energy hub for Europe

Offshore wind will be a key component to meet Europe’s climate and energy goals, and SSE brought the topic of Ireland’s offshore wind energy potential to the forefront of European Parliament. I was delighted to speak at the ‘Powering up Europe’ event SSE hosted in the European Parliament this week, considering how the offshore wind potential on the island of Ireland can be maximised to boost European energy security and deliver on our collective climate commitments.

The event hosted by Seán Kelly MEP, a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) for Ireland South; allowed for a great platform to raise critical issues on what is required to deliver on Ireland’s huge offshore wind ambition, and also the importance of EU-UK collaboration on energy. Ireland’s (and Scotland’s) offshore wind resource is of strategic importance to Europe as the island of Ireland has more renewable energy resource than it needs to meet its domestic requirements – even with electrification of heat and transport, and new industrial demands – with Ireland targeting at least 37GW of offshore wind by 2050.

To explore this question further, I was joined by the Head of Cabinet for the EU Energy Commissioner and an Ambassador for the Irish Government representation to the EU alongside representatives of European Associations of the electricity sector (Eurelectric), electricity system operators (ENTSO-E), and the wind industry (Wind Europe).

A repeated theme that came across, and is relevant for GB too, was that we largely have the policy direction for 2030 – it’s now about getting on with delivery mechanisms and making sure bottlenecks like planning and consenting don’t become blockers for renewable energy projects or the grid to connect them to reduce Europe’s dependence on imported fossil fuels.

On longer-term ambition, the topic that kept recurring was the necessity of collaboration in order to reach our collective energy and climate goals. Collaboration to not only ensure delivery of Ireland’s 2050 ambitions and the benefits the resource will bring across Europe but also closer collaboration between the EU and the UK. We were pleased to see recent progress on this with the recent energy Memorandums of Understanding between Ireland and the UK, and the UK’s re-entry into the North Seas Energy Cooperation (NSEC) initiative as an observer. These are important steps to a closer energy relationship between the EU and the UK, delivering a win-win-win for Ireland, the UK and across North West Europe.

Ireland’s offshore wind targets are no doubt ambitious, and SSE welcomes that. We are committed to investing further into Ireland’s renewable energy, with projects like the 800MW Arklow Bank Wind Park II off the coast of Co. Wicklow.

But we also want to continue having the difficult conversations, addressing the barriers and asking the right questions in order to ensure those ambitions turn into deliverable actions.

To unlock this potential resource across Ireland and Scotland, and get it to where it’s needed will require coordinated infrastructure plans and appropriate market arrangements to ensure costs and benefits are appropriately shared. These are complicated questions and will take time to resolve; hence the need for us to have these kinds of conversations now.

European Energy Ministers are due to meet to discuss North Seas energy cooperation in the Hague towards the end of November – and I hope the opportunities in Ireland and Scotland are front of mind. This can hopefully then feed into the priorities of the new European Commission and be a catalyst for a closer EU-UK relationship on energy.

A recording of the SSE event hosted by Seán Kelly MEP can be viewed here.

Alistair Phillips-Davies

Chief Executive